As if the U.S. Capitol Police didn't have enough problems with farmers and their tractors, the snow last week touched off another confrontation: between police and children and adults determined to sled down Capitol Hill.
The confrontation began when Maureen Raiter, who lives on East Capitol Street NE, took her 5-year-old daughter Amy and some friends to the Capitol.
"When the policeman saw our sleds he told us we weren't allowed to sled on the Capitol grounds," said Raiter. She added that a police official told her sledding was prohibited because the Capitol was hallowed ground, because sledding ruined the grass and because people got hurt and sued.
By this time about 35 children and adults had gathered, some of them claiming they had been sledding down Capitol Hill after every snowfall for the past 10 years. Unable to persuade the police to bend the rules, they trooped, en masse with sleds, to the office of Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.) Fauntroy was out, but the group met with an aide, Howard Lee.
"This demonstrates the problem of the Capitol being a good neighbor," Lee said in a telephone interview. "This space should be usable by people in the neighborhood."
Lee said that Fauntroy's office planned to seek permission to set aside an area where sledding could take place.
A 1947 law says, "no person shall coast or slide in a sled" in an area bounded by Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, 1st Street Northwest, and 1st Street Northeast. The law also excludes scooters, bicycles, kiddie cars and similar vehicles.
James Trollinger, deputy chief of the Capitol Police, denied that police were suddenly cracking down on a practice that had been tolerated in the past.